Jamie Whincup has struck first at Barbagallo Raceway today, setting the fastest time in practice at the West Australian circuit.
The TeamVodafone driver set a time of 57.0626s, 0.3s ahead of Fabian Coulthard, James Courtney, Will Davison, Steven Richards and Mark Winterbottom.
Whincup, who leads the title over Davison by a comfortable 122 points, said that he is treating the penultimate round of the V8 Supercar Championship Series like a football “semi-final.”
“This weekend is one of the most important weekends for us. I’ve got a very important job to do,” he said.
“It’s a semi-final for us, and we want to have a good run here to set us up for the final.”
Whincup didn’t want to get too excited, though, by his fastest Friday time.
“We’re not jumping to conclusions, but we’re pretty pleased with this,” he said.
“It was a good lap. It wasn’t my best lap. It was a bit interrupted, and I only got one lap in, but I’m quite pleased.”
Wilson Security Racing driver Coulthard was second, but like Whincup, his lap was compromised by another car.
“It wasn’t a clear lap, but what do you do?” he asked.
“We’ve been pretty quick all day and I kind of expected to be up there.”
Jim Beam Racing’s James Courtney was third. He set his lap time early in the session, but was delayed for some time with a power steering issue.
“The car was good straight out,” Courtney said.
“It’s got plenty of speed, it’s consistent and it’s looking after its tyres.”
Toll Holden Racing Team’s Davison was fourth, ahead of Ford factory counterparts Richards and Winterbottom, who both complained of understeer in their Castrol and Orrcon Steel FPR Falcons.
BET247-backed driver Jack Perkins was a surprising seventh, equipped this weekend with a brand-new engineer Stewart McDonald.
Fujitsu’s Jason Bright, WOW’s Cameron McConville and Jack Daniel’s Todd Kelly rounded out the top 10.
Qualifying for Race 23 of the V8 Supercar Championship Series is at 9.30am AWST before the race kicks off at 1.05pm.